The phrase “panning for gold” likely stirs up thoughts of the 49ers and the California gold rush.
Several North Valley cities got their start during that era but there's a group of men and women who are still panning for gold today.
CBS47's Rachel Azevedo shows us why gold prospectors believe there are treasures buried in the Central Valley.
Gold fever took hold of a nation 150 years ago and still exists for some even today. “The first time you see a little sparkle in the pan… It's got you. You're going to be going back for more and more,” said prospector Kelly Hall. “Started doing it and found my first flake and after that it's over - it's history,” said Adan Garcia.
Members of the Coarsegold Gold Prospectors Club search for gold together once a month. This particular outing took place on private property near Prather. They took Rachel along for an unforgetable experience.
Claim jumping was a big problem during the gold rush but it's not so competitive now. Those who have been doing it for years, pass their knowledge to newcomers. It starts with water, sand, and a pan.
Dredging was banned several years ago, so the current techniques are similar to how the old timers did it, from San Francisco to Coarsegold, a town rich with history of gold mining that didn’t even have a name back then.
Museum director Marjorie Jackson said, “The town has been known variously as Gold Gulch, Coarsegold Gulch, Michael's… The post office finally gave it the name Coarsegold, one word in 1878.”
The reason the town got that name was because the gold found there was heavy and coarse, which sold well. That is if you could find it.
Jackson said, “It was very, very harsh. Very few men and women made money mining. They had to really know what they were doing and they had to have good financial backing.”
While every other gold mining town in Madera County disappeared after the gold rush ended, Coarsegold turned into a tourist attraction for folks on their way to Yosemite. Today, in a down economy, a gold panning area for visitors sits abandoned.
But the hobby is alive and well for some Coarsegold residents. “People think that the gold's gone, that the old timers got it. They only got all the easy stuff that was right there showing up on top of the ground and it was maybe 5 to 10 percent. The rest is here to be found,” said Kelly Hall.
Hall has quite a collection of gold flakes and nuggets, valued over several thousand dollars. He's been panning for over forty years, and found it all in California.
He can't bring himself to part with his treasures but as the price of gold continues to climb, now around $1,500 an ounce more people are becoming interested in finding and selling it.
Rachel talked to Peter Cannon who was panning for gold for the first time. “Best case scenario is we get a couple of big nuggets. Worse case scenario is we get out and have some fun,” said Cannon, an English teacher from Visalia who got a taste for it while on a field trip with his 4th grade students.
Adan Garcia has been doing it for about five years. I do it for a hobby. It's not so much to make a profit on it. It's more coming out here and being with nature,” said Garcia.
The hobby can cost next to nothing to start. A pan and a shovel will run you about $20. You can also use something like a power sluice for several hundred dollars.
Dale Dabin makes a living selling sluice boxes and gold mining equipment. “First I started in the garage and now I have a 6,000 square foot facility in Fresno,” said Dabin.
For Dabin it's a business, but for most here it's purely pleasure and there's always the chance they'll strike it rich.
On this day, nobody stuck it rich… but they’re not giving up yet, which is why they call it “gold fever”. And that's why they call it... Gold Fever.